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Mother of El Paso Shooting Suspect Called Police About Son's Guns; DHS Made Efforts to Combat Domestic Terrorism; Trump Warned by NRA Against Background Checks; Trump Visits Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas; IPCC Calls for Change in Global Food Production to Save Earth. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 8, 2019 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:19] WILL RIPLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Did police miss a crucial clue? CNN has learned the El Paso suspect's mom called officers weeks ago.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Sources tell CNN that Homeland Security battled the White House for more than a year to make domestic terrorism a higher priority.

RIPLEY: President Trump gets a warning from the National Rifle Association right after he calls for background checks for gun buyers.


SIMONE BILES, GYMNAST: You have one job. You literally have one job and you didn't protect us.


ROMANS: Gold medalist Simone Biles not holding back about the sexual abuse scandal that rocked USA Gymnastics.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

RIPLEY: I'm Will Ripley in for Dave Briggs. It is Thursday, August 8th, 4:00 a.m. here in New York, and Dayton, Ohio, 2:00 a.m. in El Paso, Texas.

Up first a CNN exclusive. Texas police may have missed a crucial opportunity in the weeks before the El Paso shooting. The mother of the suspected gunman called police in Allen, Texas, last month. She was concerned about her son owning an AK-style weapon. Lawyers for the family tell CNN the mother was transferred to a public safety officer and that officer told her her son was legally allowed to purchase the weapon. The mother did not provide her son's name and the officer did not ask for any other information.

Now we don't know if the weapon the mother called about is the one used in the attack.

ROMANS: CNN has also learned exclusively the White House has been rejecting efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to fight domestic terrorism for more than a year. Several administration sources tell us White House officials only wanted to focus on the jihadist threat choosing to ignore the reality of rising racial supremacist violence.

One senior source close to the Trump administration says the White House has major ideological blinders on. When the national counter terrorism strategy was released last fall, the White House did add a paragraph about, quote, "other forms of extremism," but failed to specifically reference white supremacist.

RIPLEY: New this morning, the National Rifle Association is warning President Trump. CNN has learned the NRA chief Wayne LaPierre spoke to the president on Tuesday. The "Washington Post" reports LaPierre told Trump that his support for background checks on gun purchases would not be popular among his supporters.

Here's what the president said about background checks on Wednesday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important. I don't want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable people or people with rage or hate, sick people. I don't want to -- I'm all in favor of it.


RIPLEY: We know the president has gone back and forth on gun control before. White House officials say he's torn between wanting to do more but also growing concerned that doing so could cause a revolt from his base.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump spent Wednesday visiting the scenes of both weekend massacres, Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. By all accounts he was well-received by the people he met. That did not stop the president from lashing out as he flew from Dayton to El Paso. He complained bitterly that his visit was falsely portrayed by Democrats and the media. He tweeted, "It was a warm and wonderful visit," but he said Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley went on TV misrepresenting what took place. "Their news conference was a fraud. It bore no resemblance to what took place."

RIPLEY: On the ground in El Paso Trump continued complaining about how he was being portrayed.


TRUMP: I took them in. At their request, we made the tour. They couldn't believe it. She said it to people. He said it to people. I get on Air Force One where they do have a lot of televisions. I turn on the television and there they are saying, well, I don't know if it was appropriate for the president, you know, et cetera, et cetera. You know, the same old line. They're very dishonest people and that's probably why he got I think about zero percent that he failed as a presidential candidate.


RIPLEY: This is in El Paso, near the scene of a mass shooting where he's supposed to be there to comfort victims. Here's a fact check. Here's what Brown and Whaley actually said at that news conference.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): He was comforting. And he did the right things.


BROWN: And Melania did the right things. And it's his job in part to comfort people. I'm glad he did it in that -- those hospital rooms.

WHALEY: I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the president of the United States came to Dayton.


RIPLEY: In fairness to the president, Senator Brown and Mayor Whaley were bluntly critical of things that he has said and done in the past.


BROWN: I'm very concerned about a president that divides in his rhetoric and plays to race in his rhetoric and is racist.

WHALEY: I think a lot of people that own their businesses in that district aren't interested in the president being there.

[04:05:01] And, you know, a lot of the times his talk can be very divisive and that's the last thing we need in Dayton.


ROMANS: All right, presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spent the whole day in El Paso. It's his hometown. He visited with community members, dropped off flowers at makeshift memorials that's growing at the Walmart where that massacre happened. O'Rourke had said earlier that President Trump was not welcomed in El Paso but he told CNN Trump's visit might have helped some of the grieving families.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope for those families that he met with that it was helpful for them. If it was, then I'm grateful for that small comfort for them, but for the community at large to have been so regularly attacked and vilified and demonized by this president, for him to have created the conditions that made an attack like this possible and ultimately likely it's very insulting to us that he was here but, look, we're going to focus on making sure that we're strong, making sure these families are OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: O'Rourke has dropped plans to join many of the other Democratic candidates at the Iowa State Fair today. Instead he'll stay in El Paso meeting families and attending funerals.

RIPLEY: Some of the most scathing criticism of the president came from the 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden. During a campaign swing in Iowa, he directly linked Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric to the carnage in El Paso. He also accused President Trump of fanning the flames of white supremacy in the U.S.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're in a battle for the soul of this nation. Our president has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation. And that makes winning this battle for the soul of our nation that much tougher. Harder.


RIPLEY: Biden added he doesn't buy the president's condemnation earlier this week of white supremacists. Trump's reaction to Biden's speech? In a tweet he called it, quote, "so boring."

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight an unidentified California man now in custody. Police say he stabbed six people in a robbery spree Monday. Four of the victims were killed. The suspect is described as a 33-year-old Hispanic male who robbed multiple locations in Orange County. He was eventually caught at a 7-Eleven where a male security guard was killed.

RIPLEY: President Trump is defending the escalating trade war against China. He says despite the risks, his tough stance will ultimately benefit the American economy. The president says China has been killing the U.S. with unfair trade deals and he says something had to be done.


TRUMP: Somebody had to do this with China because they were taking hundreds of billions of dollars a year out of the United States and somebody had to make a stand.


RIPLEY: The sudden escalation of the U.S.-China trade conflict in recent days has jolted global financial markets. The president says the market reaction was anticipated and he continued to express confidence in the strength of the U.S. economy.

ROMANS: Remember when recession fears caused markets to have the worst December since the Greatest Depression? Well, some fear stocks could be facing another bearish black hole as those trade fears grow. The latest round of turbulence on Wall Street started last week after President Trump threatened new tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, escalating an already damaging trade war. The S&P 500 has fallen 2 percent since Trump announced those tariffs which will hit a wide-range of consumer goods directly targeting consumer goods for the first time.

Trade war and recession fears have caused investors to flee to safe investments like treasury bonds, gold, even bitcoin. Safe investment bitcoin -- I usually don't say that in the same sentence.


ROMANS: While consumer are still spending and corporate America remains profitable, Daryl Jones, research director at Hedgeye, told CNN Business, you don't need a recession for the stock market to be down 20 percent to 25 percent. A 20 percent decline would mark the end of the bull market which began in March 2009 and last summer became the longest bull market in American history.

One wild card, of course, is the Federal Reserve which could help restore confidence among investors. Hedgeye has called for a bearish blackhole depends on whether the Fed comes to the rescue by voicing support for even larger rate cuts than Wall Street is currently pricing in.

RIPLEY: There is a new climate report this morning warning that if we want to save the planet we have to change our diets. We'll explain. Live in London next.


[04:13:49] ROMANS: Federal immigration authorities are processing nearly 700 undocumented immigrants detained Wednesday in Mississippi. Officials are calling it the largest single state immigration enforcement operation in U.S. history.

CNN affiliates reported raids at food processing plants across the state. At one plant in Morton, Mississippi, buses were picking up large groups of detainees. One 11-year-old girl sobbing uncontrollably when she saw her mother through the fence.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please let me just see my mother. Please.


ROMANS: The officer says the girl's mother will be processed and released and because she is the sole guardian of her daughter, a U.S. citizen, she will not be deported. Eventually the girl was able to see her mom before ICE took the woman away.

RIPLEY: Former Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles is blasting USA Gymnastic in the wake of the Larry Nasser sexual abuse scandal. Biles is one of hundreds of young women, athletes abused by Nasser. She is now preparing for this week's national championships in Kansas City where she will compete under the banner of USA Gymnastics.

[04:15:02] Biles got emotional when she was speaking with reporters about the organization she says failed her.


BILES: It's hard coming here for an organization and having had them failed us so many times and we had one goal and we've done everything that they asked us for, even when we didn't we didn't want to, and they couldn't do one damn job. You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn't protect us.


RIPLEY: Biles believes it's important for her and other gymnasts to keep expressing their disappointment publicly, both USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee, for the inaction that allowed Nasser's serial molestation to go on unchecked for years.

ROMANS: Chilling warnings in a new report. If we want to save this planet, we need to dramatically change the way we produce food. And if we attempt to solve the climate crisis by only cutting carbon emissions in cars, factories and power plants, we're doomed to failure. Those headlines from the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change. Its report is about to be released in the next hour.

Nick Paton Walsh has the details live from London -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Another startlingly serious inconvenient truth really that people are going to have to get their heads around. If we're not going to have our entire way of life completely overhauled by the climate emergency currently upon us.

This is the second major report by the IPCC. Now that is important because this isn't just a fringe group or an activist lobby coming forward and saying, you've got to rethink the way you live your life, uncomfortably, this is the United Nations. 100 experts, many countries together here signing on to what they communally believe are the facts, and the facts are pretty startling, frankly.

About 23 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by agriculture or land use. That's basically making food. And over a third is caused by the total of food production. And that's a startling fact really for people I think who imagine that it's those chimney stacks you saw in the images just then or cars that are really behind emissions and if you drive Teslas, suddenly that will vanish overnight.

This is about changing what you eat on a daily basis. And the report says that if we do make major modifications in the amount of meat we produce, particularly beef, that's the key culprit. If we all suddenly go vegan, if we rethink how much of the planet we use for deforestation and if we try and slow down the damage we're doing to soil. A staggering fact in there is that soil is being eroded so much faster than it possibly could be re-created.


WALSH: Unless we start these major changes in how we live, there's going to be unbelievable catastrophic changes to our environment. Add to that, too, the fact they say about 70 percent of the land on earth that is not covered in ice is currently being used by humans for things like this. That's a stark warning here. And it also goes on to talk about how deforestation, decertification, a lot of things are happening much faster than we thought.

It's a warning bell and it's one frankly which is sounding at a time when I think most of the world believes the science is established. This is about how we change our behavior because of those new facts.

ROMANS: It takes about seven pounds of grain to make one pound of beef. That's one of the big takeaways there is that maybe people should be eating more grain and less beef instead of using so much for the production of beef. But as these middle classes start to grow around the world, as people get more money, the first thing they want to do is start eating more meat. And so that's one of the challenges as you have economic growth, you also have environmental damage.

Nick Paton Walsh --

WALSH: But the report, Christine, does say, you know, in things in here, it says, look, there's changes we can make. This is not all hopeless. You can decide tomorrow to eat, for example, more mushrooms rather than, you know, beef every single day. And that can have an impact that might, in fact, actually remove all the damage that the food production system does to the planet at the moment.

ROMANS: Nick Paton Walsh, mushrooms it is. Thank you, sir. Nice to see you.

WALSH: Mushrooms for us all.

ROMANS: All right. A Hollywood actor gets to play a real-life hero. How he helped save a baby after a car crash next.


[04:23:51] RIPLEY: Puerto Rico has its third governor in less than a week. Justice Secretary Wanda Vasquez officially sworn into office on Wednesday. Hours earlier Puerto Rico's Supreme Court declared the governorship of Pedro Pierluisi unconstitutional. Now he was handpicked by the disgraced former Governor Ricardo Rossello. The island nation is facing a political and economic crisis. Some observers believe Vasquez may name a new secretary of state who would then take over for her as governor.

ROMANS: Following the Oscar's lead, this year's Emmy Awards will go without a host. The television academy and FOX which will broadcast the Emmy say the idea is to have more time to salute TV's best shows and the talent behind them.

But this year iconic shows like "Game of Thrones", "Veep" and the "Big Bang Theory" will likely be recognized as they end their runs. The Primetime Emmy Awards will air September 22nd on FOX.

RIPLEY: Actor Danny Trejo playing a real-life hero when a car flipped over and it crashed at an intersection in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The actor says he rushed in to help. And along with another bystander, they were able to rescue a baby from the wreckage.


[04:25:01] DANNY TREJO, ACTOR: There was a baby inside and a grandma and a young lady had to crawl through the window. I crawled in. I couldn't get the baby out. I couldn't unbuckle the seat belt. So the -- she got in and undid the seat belt and pulled the baby out of the other side.


RIPLEY: Now in the movies Trejo is known for playing the villain. The 75-year-old actor is probably best known for his role in the film "Machete."

ROMANS: All right. It was just another Wednesday for police in New (INAUDIBLE), Texas, until they got a call about something black and white and four-legged on the loose. That's police in hot pursuit of a zebra. One of two that apparently escaped from a local ranch. Managed to swim across a river. While running around loose, police the one zebra was eventually tranquilized and transported by helicopter backed to the ranch where it was raised. The second suspect wearing stripes is still on the lamb.


ROMANS: Zebra on the lamb.


RIPLEY: And in stripes already so no need to put on the jumpsuit, I suppose.

We have two CNN exclusives this morning. We've learned that the mother of the El Paso gunman, she tried to reach out to police weeks before the shooting.

ROMANS: And we're learning about a battle inside the Trump administration over making domestic terrorism a priority. Both of those stories next.